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Students Consider Passions When Choosing Majors

By CityTownInfo.com Staff
August 31, 2009

Although college students are concerned about securing jobs during the recession, career counselors report that by and large, students are still primarily choosing majors which they enjoy.

The San Diego Union-Tribune reports that despite the recession's toll on jobs, the most popular majors at local universities have remain unchanged for several years. Moreover, the fastest-growing majors do not match the professions which are expected to grow the most by 2016.

"I think students today gravitate toward majors they think will be personally satisfying," said Tom Dalton, director of undergraduate programs at the University of San Diego, "while 25 or 30 years ago, they were more focused on being practical and getting a job that would bring in a steady income and job security."

College counselors are heartened that students are not automatically gravitating towards careers which pay the most. Katharine Brooks, director of career services at the University of Texas at Austin and author of "You Majored in What? Mapping Your Path From Chaos to Career," noted that students should pursue careers that interest them, because then they will perform better as a result.

"You have to evaluate your strengths and where you excel, and become an expert in the field so when you graduate, you're able to get one of the few jobs out there," she said.

John Scanlan, assistant career director at Cleveland State University, agreed. "Even though a student may be pressured by their parents, spouse or family member to choose a practical major right away, it is okay for the student to take some time to figure out what they are truly passionate about," he said in an interview with CityTownInfo.com. "I tell students to do well in their introductory classes, which mostly just requires showing up to class. I also advise students to take a career development course if it's offered at their school, even if they think they don't need it."

The Star-News in North Carolina reports that the most popular majors at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington have held steady throughout the economic downturn as well. Some of those popular majors include business, education and marine biology.

Nevertheless, career counselors emphasized that students are being pragmatic about how best to obtain jobs. Emily Gonzales, an academic counselor at the University of California San Diego, told the Union-Tribune that about two in five students she sees are now asking for help finding backup majors or internships. And Ron Gaschler, career center director at Cal State San Marcos, noted that counselors are spending more time talking to students with less marketable majors about choosing a double major or adding a minor.

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